Stefer “The Lion” Rahardian has found a new home in ONE Championship’s strawweight division, but before he dropped down a weight class this year, he was a force to be reckoned with in the flyweight ranks.
The Jakarta, Indonesia native experienced instant success in the Home Of Martial Arts, as he claimed a national championship in his promotional debut.
The 31-year-old had attended the company’s first Indonesia event ONE: BATTLE OF HEROES in February 2012, as a guest of his hero and featured competitor Rolles Gracie. He later made his own way into the organization in August 2016.
At ONE: TITLES & TITANS, he entered a four-man, one-night tournament to determine the ONE Jakarta Flyweight Tournament Champion.
In preparation for his grand premiere, Rahardian left the nation’s capital to train at Bali MMA.
“I trained twice or three times a day, to develop varied fighting skills,” he explains.
“The coaches said I had to train all aspects of mixed martial arts – including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and kickboxing, as well as high-intensity physical training.”
Rahardian was scheduled to clash with his fellow countryman Yotha Hutagalung in the opening round of the tournament.
As he was preparing backstage in the Jakarta Convention Center, he admits he was a little anxious.
“I always have this nervous feeling when I am about to enter the cage,” he explains. “It is normal for every athlete.”
However, his performance suggested otherwise. Once the bell sounded to start the match, Rahardian – who was a BJJ purple belt at the time – quickly put his grappling to good use.
“I performed a quick trip takedown, before pounding him. However, he managed to escape,” Rahardian recalls.
“When he escaped, I continued to his back, and locked in a rear-naked choke. That is when he tapped.”
Rahardian finished the bout in 46 seconds, which still stands as the second-fastest submission in the flyweight division’s history.
“That victory paved the way for me to earn my current spot in ONE Championship,” he says.
“It was my favorite match, as well as a game-changer for my career in ONE Championship.”
Later in the evening, “The Lion” confirmed he was ready to become a leading member of the roster.
Rahardian defeated another Indonesian athlete, Hendrick Wijaya, with the same technique at the 1:36 mark of the first round to claim the ONE Jakarta Flyweight Tournament Championship.
However, the BJJ specialist, who had previously won numerous medals at submission grappling competitions, did not celebrate his victory.
Instead, he went directly into intensive training at both Bali MMA, and at his local gym home, Jakarta Muay Thai & MMA, to further sharpen his tools.
“The Lion” may have secured his spot in ONE with the tournament win, but he did not want to risk losing it. He wanted to get straight back on the mats to build on his success.
“Of course I am pleased to win my fights, but once I step out of the cage, I always feel I have to improve everything that is lacking. I do not want to feel proud and complacent,” he explains.
Rahardian has continued to showcase his tremendous improvement, and won another five consecutive matches to build on his sensational start. Along the way, he has emerged as Indonesia’s most successful martial arts hero.
Just as he has grown as a martial artist, the promotion’s popularity in his homeland has grown, too. Fans are tuning in to the sport in their droves, and more local competitors are dedicating their lives to training, in hope of following in his footsteps.
That makes “The Lion” proud to continue his career in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“I am honored to fight in ONE Championship, since it has brought Indonesian fighters into prestigious world-class bouts,” he explains. “I think the other Indonesian athletes and myself are proud to carry our country’s name on a global scale.”